Your next enrollment opportunity? Cross-training managers for industry switches

Expert Insight

Your next enrollment opportunity? Cross-training managers for industry switches

While management-level professionals in food service and hospitality have weathered the economic crisis better than front-line workers, their employment will be at risk as shutdowns continue and businesses close. To help them transition to manager positions in higher growth fields, institutions need to create flexible, low-cost offerings in finance and data analytics to capitalize on these professionals existing strength in customer service and people management.

As shutdowns lengthen, food service and hospitality managers face growing risk

As we enter the 4th month of the COVID-19 lockdown in parts of the U.S., some industries are beginning to show early signs of recovery. As hard hit metro areas in the northeast begin to slowly reopen, there remains some hope that retail and in-person services like barbers and nail salons may have put their hardest days behind them. But for the food service and hospitality industries, questions remain about how quickly they may recover, if at all.

New air travel bookings are down 82% from this time last year. Forecasts expect the airline industry to lose $84 billion in 2020, as the majority of Americans indicate they’ll avoid air travel for the foreseeable future, even after official restrictions begin to be lifted. Meanwhile, the food service industry has been decimated by job losses, with 5.5 million laid off in April alone.

Within the food and hospitality industry, managers with a bachelor’s degree were likely able to weather the economic downturn better than many. Hourly workers were the first to lose their jobs, while restaurants and hotels needed managers to plan for complex re-openings which involved reinvention of physical space and customer service practices. But as restaurants re-open with severe restrictions and folks forgo travel over a typically busy summer period, many skilled and educated managers will find themselves out of work as businesses close, this time possibly for good.

Management professionals likely to explore job opportunities in stable or growing fields

With a growing number of managers out of work, many will look to take their valuable experience to industries with a more positive growth outlook. Management positions within the food service and hospitality industry declined much faster than overall job postings for bachelor’s-level professionals. In contrast, management positions in transportation, finance, and general operations have grown more quickly.

Average monthly growth of bachelor’s-level management
occupations nationwide (June 2017-May 2020)



Average monthly decline in employer demand for managers in the accommodation and food industry

Average monthly increase in employer demand for financial managers



Average monthly increase in employer demand for general and operations managers

Average monthly increase in employer demand for transportation, storage, and distribution managers

Food service and hospitality managers seeking new job opportunities will have relevant skills to provide the foundation for a successful transition. Experience in accounting, budgeting, and customer service will make these individuals attractive management candidates in higher growth fields.

Top skills for bachelor’s-level managers in the food and hospitality industry

SkillFrequency in Job Postings
Restaurant Operation60%
Restaurant Management41%
Food Services31%
Profit and Loss (P&L) Management27%
Business Mathematics18%
Cost Management16%
Conflict Resolution15%
Labor Laws14%

Finance and data analytics skills will allow managers to utilize skills in other industries

Former food and hospitality managers must address skill gaps before they transition their management experience and skills to higher growth fields. Colleges and universities can play a vital role in preparing these professionals for new job opportunities, and should be creative in standing up flexible, low-cost programs that can allow these professionals to rebound quickly back into the labor market. Finance and data analytics skills are in high need, but unlikely to have been developed in earlier food and hospitality management roles.

Typical approaches to flexible delivery, such as offering night or weekend courses, will likely not resonate with unemployed workers seeking quick transitions back to the workforce. Instead, institutions should consider creating short but intensive programs that allow unemployed workers to complete their training in weeks, not months. 

Institutions should focus on finance skills (e.g., auditing, financial analysis) to ensure that managers have the in-depth competencies to oversee more complex business operations and transactions. Employers commonly seek these specialized finance skills for general operations manager positions, but food service and hospitality managers typically only conduct basic budgeting tasks like maintaining a profit-loss sheet.

Colleges and universities should also leverage their ever-expanding data analytics portfolios. Food service and hospitality managers display strong interpersonal skills, but data analytics skills (e.g., data warehousing) are highly sought in logistics and marketing manager positions and will make these professionals more attractive candidates in a tight labor market.

What’s next?

We’re continuing to watch job postings trends as well as adjustments to employment projections, and to monitor trends our partner colleges and universities are reporting. Expect updates to this analysis as we learn more this summer. We’ll be particularly seeking financial models for programs that serve under-resourced and unemployed members of your communities.  

In the meantime, keep a look out for our upcoming regional profiles to see what roles rank among the most demanded jobs for your area, and consider which offer potential career paths for displaced food services, hospitality, and retail workers. Health care roles, for example, remain in-demand with potential for sustained careers—read more about COVID-19’s impact on clinical health care careers and education.

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